Happy New Year! Thinking about how to eat healthier? Join the club. :)
Seriously, what can you do to improve your diet? A great start is to look in your cabinets and start [re-]reading product labels. How many ingredients do they contain? How may can you pronounce? How much violence have they likely suffered before they reached you? Even if it is “organic", how much does the product resemble something you have seen in nature?
The industrial processing of food not only frequently adds junk and utilizes chemicals; even for the organic stuff, it is full of high heat and pressure—violence that can crush the life out of food, and in some cases render it toxic. A case in point is cold breakfast cereal. In experiments, rats were fed only whole grains, or only “puffed" whole grains (that’s what they do to make breakfast cereal), which have nominally the same caloric and nutritional value. The rats fed whole grains were fine and dandy. The rats fed the puffed grains dropped dead two weeks into the study. Not only is puffed grain not food, it is clearly toxic. You are better off eating the box. (Here is a very engaging book excerpt published in the UK rag, The Guardian, describing the booming business of cold breakfast cereal in Britain and the US.)
Like me, you might find this depressing and frustrating. Life moves quickly in my world, and what are we supposed to eat? But there are other things to eat, and once you start removing the offenders, you will get creative.
I have had a hard time myself getting breakfast cereals completely out of our house. I have a pre-schooler who is VERY particular, god bless him. I have gradually cut back, introducing a number of new breakfast options, and over several weeks have been able to reduce cold cereal breakfasts to once or twice a week. But still, there it is.
There really is nothing but habit to dictate that we must start the day with “breakfasty" things like cold cereal. There are all kinds of great options that are actually good for you, and not too hard to prepare. Snacks are the other really troublesome territory for me, when it comes to processed foods. A lot of us count on processed and packaged foods for quick snacks and treats. Often even more than breakfast cereals, these will be loaded with added sugar and salt, and contain violently processed food ingredients, never mind the ’natural’ and artificial food colorings, flavors, binders, fillers, other additives and preservatives—none of which are actually food!
If you decide to start cleaning out your pantry, please don’t forget that you can donate unopened packaged goods to a food pantry. Usually, any food is better than no food—hopefully this helps you feel better about getting rid of things. You can also take it slow, and just finish up what you have, and then replace it with new, healthier choices when it is gone.
There is a good chance you already have some healthy stuff on hand, though, so don’t wait to start experimenting. For breakfasts, you could try:
- Making (soaked) oatmeal, and make extra for ‘instant’ breakfasts later in the week
- Bread and cheese
- Homemade waffles or pancakes (freeze them and toast later for a quick breakfast, or snack)
- Cold quinoa with milk and maple syrup (my favorite), or with fruit
- Plain whole yogurt with fruit, or a little jam
- Fruit and cheese
- Homemade muffins (from the freezer!)
- Eggs and ham/bacon
- Eggs and toast
- Boiled (ahead of time!) eggs
There are so many options—you (I) just have to get the cereal out of the way.
For snacks, and lunch, many of the above apply, of course. Other options include:
- Homemade crackers (not as complicated as they sound—recipe to come)
- Pieces of cold meat (uncured ham, leftovers from dinner)
- Fresh or dried fruit
- Nuts and nut butters (in moderation, please!)
- Cut raw veggies (perhaps dipped in a yogurt sauce)
- Cold or warmed up quinoa or rice with anything (sauce, meat, veggies, yogurt, cheese, poached egg…)
- Soup (a great way to get bone broth into yourself and your family)
- Homemade smoothies or popsicles
- Leftovers from dinner (yes, even for the kids)
Does anybody have other ideas for easy breakfasts and snacks made from real, whole foods? I would love to hear about it!